Municipal officials agreed to pay a woman $3.55 million to settle a lawsuit she filed after badly injuring herself in a car accident on Beckwith Avenue. Her lawsuit says the city failed to adequately maintain the roadway, leading to the accident.
Judith Garris, a city resident, who was 55 at the time of the incident, was driving her vehicle westbound on Beckwith Avenue at the intersection Lewis Street, where exists a ramp to I-80, on June 17, 2017. Her vehicle struck a guardrail, which was protruding into the roadway, that was not adequately maintained. She was “caused to be violently twisted, jolted, strained and lurched about” sustaining serious injuries, according to the lawsuit filed on March 29, 2018.
Garris was hospitalized and required extensive medical care as a result of the accident. She sued New Jersey Department of Transportation, Passaic County, and Paterson because of confusion over who owned the roadway and was responsible for maintaining it.
Garris sought $10 million in damages in a claim notice filed with the city, according to public records.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation produced an agreement dated July 16, 1970 that states the roadway is controlled by Paterson. Municipal officials in their court certifications also admitted the city controls the roadway and had the responsibility to maintain it in a safe condition.
A settlement in the case was reached in May 2020, but the city delayed paying $3.55 million, according to court records. Frustrated by the city dragging its feet, Garris’ attorney, Edward Capozzi, filed a motion to enforce the settlement on August 19, 2020.
“I now have to report to Ms. Garris once again and at this point have no information as to when she can expect to receive the money for a matter that was settled in May. Ms. Garris will surely be frustrated and furious that this matter has not resolved,” wrote Capozzi to the judge on December 16, 2020.
Members of the City Council approved the settlement on December 29, 2020.
“We’re going to pay someone $3 million and something because the city didn’t take care of an issue that was reported in the past. And worse, someone got hurt. [This] could have been prevented,” said council president Flavio Rivera.
“Forget about the money on this issue. Someone reported this. A person got hurt because someone dropped the ball,” said councilman Al Abdelaziz. “This is going to happen more and more if we do not follow up on the concerns and complaints that residents put on the record.”
Finance director Marge Cherone said the city will cover $650,000 and the rest will be paid out by its excess coverage insurance firm. Lloyd’s of London will contribute $2.9 million towards the settlement, according to public documents.
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